For the second year in a row the Carolina Panthers spent the offseason being criticized for having a perceived weak secondary unit. After seeing Melvin White and Antoine Cason in action on Sunday night all the critics look like they’ll spend this season eating crow.
Our two starting cornerbacks looked like they have been taking tackling lessons from Luke Kuechly on Sunday night. Melvin White and Antoine Cason both led the team in tackles against Kansas City notching six-a-piece, and each player had a nice tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Alex Smith managed to play well under pressure against our defensive starters but the pressure was there. When he snapped the ball and dropped back, the pocket was regularly closing in on him. Alex Smith is a 10 year veteran now who has developed the patience to stand in the pocket under such pressure, but we can trust that we will see plenty of quarterbacks this season who struggle under the same circumstances.
When QBs start feeling that pressure mistakes will be made and the opportunity for our defensive backs to make plays will be abundant. Having had a good look at Cason and White, it seems like a good bet that these guys can take advantage of the opportunities that will be offered.
For all the criticism bestowed upon the unit last year the Panthers finished the season sixth overall in pass defense. The “weak unit” fielded by the Panthers in 2013 only allowed an average of 214 yards through the air per game, and they intercepted the ball 20 times, while only giving up 17 touchdowns.
Despite what anybody says now, it’s not unreasonable to expect an even better showing this season with the players we have on hand. Antoine Cason is looking to revive a career that has stalled of late and Melvin White looks good after having an entire year under his belt. These guys are both in positions to succeed this season and they certainly look ready to step up in big ways.
At the nickelback position, things still look uncertain.
Charles Godfrey is still shaking off the rust and readjusting to a new position while coming back from a torn Achilles last season. He has not had a particularly impressive showing thus far but that is to be expected.
For all of the promise that Josh Norman has shown in camp the past two seasons, he just can’t seem to get himself in order. After drawing a penalty flag on Sunday night he spent the rest of the game riding the bench. While he certainly has the size and physical skills desired for the position he will have to do better to get out of Rivera’s doghouse.
There is still plenty of potential for Bene Benwikere to step up and play a significant role in the position. With Godfrey looking slow and Norman angering the coaching staff, it might be just what he needs to get his foot in the door.
The rookie drafted in the fifth round this year has great ballhawking skills that I personally witnessed at training camp this year. On the day I attended, he had at least two interceptions and had a couple nice pass deflections as well.
Rookies need time to transition to the game at the NFL level but if his number is called early in the regular season we can hold out hope that he will do well. It would be a true trial by fire but like everybody else in our secondary he will be in a position to succeed.
Despite allowing The Chiefs to move the ball effectively early on the Panthers defense still looked strong as the game wore on. Our defense will be the difference maker when the season begins. This unit is strong up front and everybody behind will look better because of the opportunities that strength on the line presents.
While we wait to see who steps up in the nickleback position we can at least rest easy knowing that our two starters on the outside look strong, and ready to make the most of their opportunity in 2014.